As panic spreads about the shortage of medical staff at some health centres in Gauteng because of increasing resignations, the provincial health department has denied there is a moratorium on the filling of vacant posts.
Patients at some clinics on the West Rand have experienced delays and overcrowding due to a shortage of staff. Last week regular and new admissions patients at Discoverers Health Clinic in Roodepoort arrived to the news that three doctors and two senior nurses had resigned with immediate effect. The patients were informed their positions would not be filled because the department had imposed a moratorium on replacing staff as it had no money.
The clinic was overcrowded and the patients panicked due to slow issuing of their files as the clerical staff were always late and often took too long to issue files. One of the nurses had to abandon her own work to assist. The patients who spoke to The Citizen on condition of anonymity, complained the workers manning the folders’ section allegedly frequently disappeared from their work stations.
“I have been here since five o’clock in the morning; look now, it’s nearly nine o’clock. These ladies have been moving up and down and disappearing without attending to us. This is unacceptable,” said the woman waiting for her folder. The clinic caters for local communities but others come from as far as Soweto, Kagiso and other outlying areas.
Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, member of the executive council for health, denied there was a moratorium on filling posts at clinics and hospitals. She said, due to budgetary constraints, they had decided to prioritise section services to ensure they never ran short of supplies and staff.
“We are given so much money per year and we make certain budget adjustments to top up [payments] for negotiated wage increases. Those salary negotiations do affect the filling of posts. “We usually increase our budget by [the] inflation rate but presently our allocation is R200 million less than the department is entitled to. In that case we have to prioritise,” Ramokgopa said.
She highlighted that her department had to prioritise governance, paediatric and midwifery services. They had made important progress on governance by filling vacant chief executive posts at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and a few others. “Our aim is to bring certainty at these hospitals because the absence of CEOs contributed to labour tensions… We do fill posts for critical care and governance.”
Ramokgopa said an additional R100 million had been reprioritised in the budget adjustment to deal with critical staff shortages, infrastructure upgrading and business process improvements in maternity obstetrics units, as well as in maternity and neonatal wards. This is in addition to posts approved earlier this year.
Fifty ultrasound machines are to be purchased this year to support midwives, two CT scans are to be bought for regional hospitals while two Linear Accelerator Machines will be acquired for central hospitals. “… these interventions, whilst they will ease the pressure … the impact of the reduction of funding over the MTEF [medium-term expenditure framework] period in the aftermath of the global recession is still substantive,” said Ramokgopa.
E“This financing hole needs to be plucked and the NHI Bill [National Health Insurance Bill] fast-tracked to ensure equitable distribution of resources and sustained quality care. “The Gauteng health system will remain in a crisis if these are not addressed,” she said.